3 Ways to Inspire Compassion in Your Kids

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Today, my daughter saw a woman with a baby holding a sign that indicated hunger. Focused on dodging the busy traffic in the parking lot, I didn't see them. My daughter tugged on my sweatshirt and whispered, “We have to help. Can we give them some money?” I'm not one to carry much cash on me, but I found a few dollars in my wallet, and she delivered them to the woman and baby, who were sitting on the side of the parking lot.

We spent the ride home talking about them. Would the baby be warm enough? Do they have somewhere to sleep? How will they have enough money to live? Is there something else we can do to help that particular family?

Sometimes kids ask us questions we simply can't answer. We can, however, talk about the importance of having compassion for others.

We can raise a generation of change makers by empowering our kids to put compassion first. Instead of spitting out generic answers to difficult questions this afternoon, I challenged my daughter to think about ways we can continue to help families facing hunger this holiday season.

Compassionate people feel deeply for others and have a desire to help. Many children show small acts of compassion daily. A sibling getting a Band-Aid for a brother with a skinned knee shows compassion, for example. A friend putting an arm around another friend when he is upset is another example. As parents, we tend to view these small moments as kind and helpful, but we should celebrate them as acts of compassion. When we demonstrate and discuss compassion often, we empower our kids to show compassion for others.

The good news is that opportunities to practice compassion are everywhere. Focus on those small moments, and you'll find that your kids make big gains.

Image via Flickr/ Shinagawa

Practice deliberate acts of kindness.

Sure, random acts of kindness are fun, and it's nice to do something kind without expecting anything in return. But kindness should be deliberate. It's a choice we make, and we want our kids to see that we act in kind ways because it's the right thing to do (not because it's the holiday season).

Each you time you help someone in some small way (think picking up a dropped object for a stranger or holding a door open), you show your kids that small acts of kindness show others we care.

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Offering a hand is a great way to show your kids that they have the power to be change makers in this world.

love and hugs
Image via Flickr/ kainr

Practice compassion at home.

Kids have tough days sometimes. Some kids tend to be worriers while others are prone to frustration. Instead of viewing every frustrating behavior as manipulative in some way, step back and consider what kinds of things might have triggered your child. Was another child unfriendly at school? Did your child struggle on the soccer field?

When we show compassion for our kids by considering their thoughts and feelings instead of handing out consequences the moment the going gets tough, we teach them to do the same for others.

Image via Flickr/ mypubliclands

Volunteer together.

Sharing a few dollars with a family in need was empowering for my daughter, but what she really wants to do is to help as many people as possible. After much careful consideration, she decided to collect blankets and care kits to donate to families in need through our church. In doing this, she believes we can help other families stay healthy and warm when the temperatures drop.

Sometimes volunteering feels like one extra thing to add to an already packed schedule, but taking the time to help within your community is a powerful experience for kids. And it doesn't have to be a huge time commitment. Over the summer, my kids helped clean up our little town with other kids in the area. They felt proud and happy, following a morning of cleaning up trash and pulling weeds. They also experienced a feeling of community.

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Caring for others or helping the community thrive shows compassion for others. Volunteering together is a great way to inspire compassionate thinking while spending time together.


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3 Ways to Inspire Compassion in Your Kids

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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